Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Revival of Sanskritum

It's paradoxical, but not really, that even as the elites of the country focus on English as their only language of communication, in country that only about 7-8% can speak and read decent English, that Sanskrit as a language is being revived too. It's not really paradoxical because that's the end result of free and open economy - more and more people can afford and have time to pursue their interests whether it's arts, languages, or sports, along with entrepreneurial ventures and make a career out of their interest.

Pallavi Singh describes the revival of Sanskrit in Uttarakhand from two sources - Uttaranchal Sanskrit Academy and Uttaranchal Sanskrit University.

Since then, both institutions have consulted historians and linguists on the language to arrive at a vast compendium of subjects Sanskrit can address: botany in the Vrikshayurveda texts, Varahamihira’s Brihat Samhita for scientific theories on earthquakes and ecology and the calculation of planetary movements and preparing perfumes, Panini’s Ashtadhyayi for mathematics and Kautilya’s Arthshashtra for political and economic organization.

Then there are plays in the language by various local theatre groups. Sudha Rani Pandey, vice-chancellor of Uttaranchal Sanskrit University, argues that the cultural history of the language runs deep. “The 18th century play Sabha Bhushanam, and Navya Bharat Natakam, Naranarayanabhyudaya Natakam, Ajeya Bharatam developed in the 20th century speak well of the richness of Sanskrit,” she says.

But the task is slow and arduous.
With difficult grammar rules, verb and noun formations, and many more tenses in Sanskrit, the learning curve itself is pretty steep and intimidating for most. From 49,736 speakers in 1991, the number of speakers of Sanskrit dwindled to 14,135 in 2001.

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